Laws of Pigeon Shooting and Hunting in the USA

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The most famous and annoying birds in the USA are pigeons. They are not as innocent as you think. They can destroy your home by building a nest. Also, the nest can be the source of house mites. So, you must be wondering about the laws of pigeon shooting and hunting in the USA.

Shooting and hunting laws may vary across the USA. It depends on the authorities of each state. But all the American states protect Migratory birds. So, you cannot shoot them even when they are a source of nuisance. 

But some states allow their hunting for a few days each year with a limited bag count. The article will guide you more about it in detail.

What is Pigeon Shooting?

Shooting pigeons is basically taking down the birds with a firearm or using archery equipment. For centuries people have been shooting birds for many purposes. The common reason was food. But, eventually, pigeon shooting became a popular sports activity in the late eighties. Since then, people have been shooting and hunting pigeons as an activity. 

The alarmingly growing pigeon population in the USA has made them famous sky rodents. So, many states allow nuisance pigeon shooting all year. A few state laws also allow taking them down without a license when they are damaging a harvest or property.

Pigeons are famous birds for destroying crops and fields. Their destruction alone has caused farmers a large chunk of money. So, in country areas with little to no dwellings, you can shoot pigeons as soon as you spot them. 

Pigeon shooting VS Pigeon Hunting

There is not a big difference between pigeon shooting and hunting. In fact, you can think of both as the same. But with a slight variation. Pigeon shooting is taking down the bird because it is a source of nuisance. But pigeon hunting is an activity or sport. In which hunters can take down a limited number and a specific breed of the bird.

So, you can say pigeon hunting is basically shooting but in a more fun way. Some of the US states allow pigeon shooting but forbid hunting. It is to protect wildlife and prevent them from going extinct.

As per the 1918 MBTA or Migratory bird treaty act, it is illegal to harm, sell or trade any migratory birds without state permission. Many pigeon species fall under this category. 

The hunting period is for a limited time and a bag count for each species. It also requires a license and permits. But to shoot annoying pigeons, you might or might not need a hunting license, depending on the state laws. 

Is Dove Hunting Different From Pigeon Hunting?

No. There is no difference between pigeon and dove hunting. Technically there is no difference between pigeons and doves. Ornithologists can point out a few differences in their color or nesting behavior. But to an inexperienced eye, there might be no such prominent difference. 

A few researchers claim that in English, they are called doves, but soon a word from French is made into English, so they become pigeons. Some people call big birds doves and smaller pigeons. 

There is no scientific difference between their physical appearance. So, there is no difference in hunting. You can also use the same weapons. The only difference by law you need to look for while hunting pigeons or doves is protected and unprotected species. 

Laws Of Pigeon Shooting and Hunting In The USA

DelawareIt’s illegal to harm wildlife in Delaware unless they are a nuisance.
Rhode IslandIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Rhode Island. You can kill nuisance pigeon species on your property.
West VirginiaIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in West Virginia. You can take down the nuisance pigeons from your house.
IowaIt’s not illegal to kill a pigeon in Iowa. However, causing any harm to wildlife for no valid reason is forbidden.
ArkansasIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Arkansas. You can take down Rock doves or Feral pigeons at any time using guns or any other way. 
WyomingIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Wyoming. Hunters can also take down pigeons during small games.
MississippiIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Mississippi. You can take down annoying pigeon species at any time.
New MexicoIt’s illegal to kill pigeons in New Mexico without any valid reason. There are eight pigeon species living in the state.
Wisconsin It’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Wisconsin. You can take down annoying pigeons lingering around your property.
South CarolinaIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in South Carolina. Pigeons are exotic creatures.
Maine It’s illegal to kill pigeons in Maine. The federal authorities forbid the killing and hunting of Migratory pigeons.
AlabamaIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Alabama. The authorities don’t protect Rock pigeons and Eurasian-collared doves.
Connecticut It’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Connecticut. The state doesn’t protect the Feral pigeon specie.
TennesseeIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Tennessee. You can force remove or kill pigeons living on your property. 
Kentucky It’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Kentucky. But, state law forbids the killing of Migratory pigeons.
MinnesotaIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Minnesota. The state allows the shooting and trapping of nuisance pigeon species.
MissouriIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Missouri. The law doesn’t classify pigeons as wildlife specie.
Maryland It’s illegal to kill pigeons in Maryland except for unprotected pigeons and game birds. 
LouisianaIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Louisiana. The pigeons are an exotic species.
MontanaIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Montana. Hunters can take them down at any time. 
IndianaIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Indiana. They are one of the unprotected bird species living in the state.
IllinoisIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Illinois. The federal authorities do not protect Feral pigeons and Eurasian collared doves.
North Carolina  It’s not illegal to kill pigeons in North Carolina.
MichiganIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Michigan. The federal authorities do not protect Feral pigeons and Eurasian collared doves.
New JerseyIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in New Jersey. In New Jersey, you can eliminate all species of pigeons except for the Migratory pigeons.
ColoradoIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Colorado. The state does not protect the birds that cause harm to humans and their properties.
PennsylvaniaIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Pennsylvania. Federal authorities of Pennsylvanian do not protect pigeons in the state except for Homing pigeons. 
OhioIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Ohio. You can eliminate pigeons destroying your property with or without a license.
MassachusettsIt’s illegal to kill pigeons in Massachusetts. As per the laws, no one can frighten or kill a pigeon except for the landowners.
WashingtonIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Washington. The state authorities allow the removal of pigeons from private property by trapping or killing them.
GeorgiaIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Georgia. The state authorities allow the killing, shooting, and hunting of pigeons. 
AlaskaIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Alaska when they are a source of disturbance and annoyance. 
HawaiiIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Hawaii. Pigeons are the famous sky pest in Hawaii, also known as rats with wings.
Las VegasIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Las Vegas. However, it is strictly not valid to shoot pigeons without reason.
Arizona It’s legal to kill pigeons in Arizona. Due to the rapid increase in the pigeon population, the state wildlife authorities allow the killing of nuisance pigeons from your property.
TexasIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Texas. Local authorities do not protect feral pigeons. 
UtahIt’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Utah. However, you must follow the state rules while shooting pigeons.
VirginiaIt’s illegal to kill pigeons or any other birds in Virginia. The state does allow the hunting of migratory pigeons during the game season, which happens yearly from September to November.
Nevadait’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Nevada. The federal authorities do not protect Feral pigeons.
Florida It’s not illegal to kill pigeons in Florida. However, the state government protects migratory birds, including the White-crowned, Homing, and Band-tailed pigeons. 
California It’s not illegal to kill pigeons in California. The state government does not protect local pigeons and allows the hunting of all species. 
New YorkIt is not illegal to kill pigeons in NYC. According to the state rule, you can kill annoying pigeons on your property only if you have a hunting license.

Types Of Licenses required for Pigeon Shooting

You only need a hunting license to take down pigeons in the USA. There can be a few types of hunting licenses. Depending on age, residence, and Small game license.

But all hunters are required to complete a safety course before applying. You will need to check state laws when looking for a specific type of hunting license. Below are a few types of hunting licenses you can find in almost all states.

Youth Hunting license

A hunting license is the same in all states. But, it can differ for minors. People below the age of 17 are given a youth hunting license. This license becomes invalid as soon as they turn 18.

The minimum age for the youth hunting license may vary for each state. But commonly, people above nine can shoot pigeons under the supervision of an adult. 

Senior Hunting License 

State issues Senior hunting licenses for all people above 65. It lasts all their lifetime. There is no requirement to revoke it each year. But, adults meaning people age eighteen to sixty-five, might need to purchase a new hunting license each year, depending on the state law. Some states also offer senior hunting licenses at discounted rates. 

Resident/ Non-resident Hunting license

To purchase a resident hunting license, you must live in the state for at least 183 days. Students living in college are not included in this. So, to purchase a resident license, you must have the same state driver’s license, identification, or Military card. Non-residents are issued a separate hunting license. It can be slightly more expensive than the resident hunting license. 

Small Game

The small game hunting license is for hunting protected pigeon species. Under this license, you can hunt Migratory birds in the state. But Migratory bird hunting is limited for a few days.

So, when hunting in a small game, you can take down only a number of pigeons. This license might or might not require reissuing each year, depending on your state laws.

Pigeon Shooting Permission

You can shoot pigeons in the USA all around the year. Shooting pigeons on your own land is legal and doesn’t require any permit. The state allows people to shoot nuisance pigeons on their property when it is far from residential areas or dwellings. 

Also, Farmers or agricultural landowners don’t need a permit from the state to take down the pigeons destroying harvest. But you will need permission from the land owner when hunting pigeons on someone else land. After confirming with the landowner, local authorities issue you the permit.

Hunting pigeons on someone else’s land without a permit is considered trespassing. Taking permission can be tricky. To convince them, you can show them your hunting and weapon license. Also, talk to them or write them a letter explaining your experience. Assure the landowner that you will keep their property safe and will not cause them any damage. 

Pigeon Shooting Methods

There are a few different types of pigeon shooting. A few of them are explained in detail below. 


Decoying is the most common method of pigeon shooting. This method involves using lightweight pigeon replicas around the field. The pigeon replicas or decoys are made of plastic or nephron. Placing them around the hunting field is the most crucial part of this technique. 

You need to look around and observe the pigeon’s pattern or behavior. Then place these decoys in a related manner around the field. So, they appear as real pigeons. The key to this method is the correct placement of pigeons. So, your efforts can go in vain if you fail to figure out the proper placement of decoys. 

Flying pigeon decoys and feeding decoys are the best way to attract more. The shooter must hide in a bush to shoot the birds as they approach the ground. So, the bird doesn’t sense the danger and flies away. If the pigeon lands, it is said to be decoyed.


Flighting is a technique to disrupt a pigeon’s flight path as it moves toward the feed or from feeding to on its way to roosting. This strategy works best when not shooting pigeons in the field or woods. To shoot birds using this technique, you will need more camouflage. So, it is highly dependent on the season. More tree foliage will provide you with more disguise. 

It is crucial to understand the flightiness of pigeons for this technique. Observe them for a day or two. It is to learn their feeding and roosting behavior. You must hide in the background when observing them to avoid causing hindrance in their pattern. 

Pigeons like to follow a routine. So, they work in the same way each day. Once you know all the pigeon patterns, find a spot that blends with the background. It increases your chance for a clean shot because pigeons will not flare up if they cannot see you. 

Roost shooting

This technique is shooting pigeons when they are returning to roost. It is the most favorable shooting method in the woods, especially during winter. You will find pigeons roosting in fir trees with nearby hardwood trees like beeches, oaks, and Maple. 

They prefer roosting in fir trees as it provides shelter and warmth. The latter trees offer them food. So, when looking for a shooting place in the woods, you will find many there.

Roosting pigeons are more successful in winter when tree branches are clear. It is the easiest method of all techniques. So, you need to find the trees and observe them for a while before taking down pigeons. It is better to cover yourself from head to toe for this method. 

Best Time and Season To Shoot Pigeons 

Pigeon decoying and Flighting work best in the summer. Birds usually travel in pairs or small flocks. But in winter, you might see them moving around in a group. On the other hand, shooting pigeons using the roosting technique is more successful in winter. 

During winter, there is little to no foliage. So shooters can have a clean shoot as birds have no place for hiding. Pigeon shooting is also dependent on the crops. In some crops, you can take down pigeons easily in winter. On the contrary, some fields work as the best shooting ground in summer. 

In winter, you can shoot pigeons on the crops like seed rape. Crops like barley, wheat, and peas are the best for spring. Lucerne and other local crops are the best options to shoot pigeons in the summer. 

Permitted Guns For Pigeon Shooting

In the USA, you can use any gun to shoot pigeons. But, the firearm must be registered and licensed. You can also use archery equipment to take down pigeons. But you will need to have an archery hunting license. Hunters usually prefer air rifles and shotguns to take down birds.

But you cannot use air rifles for the migratory pigeons. The only legal firearm for shooting protected bird species is a shotgun. Also, it must not be larger than .22 caliber. It must not hold more than three pallets.

For taking down nuisance pigeons, you can use any firearm. But the bullet should be smooth. So, you can fire it at any projectile motion, and it kills the target without causing it a lot of pain. 


Can You Get In Trouble For Shooting Pigeons?

No. You cannot get in trouble for shooting pigeons. You must follow the rules to avoid getting into trouble for shooting birds. Read all the state laws on pigeon hunting. Also, you must know the protected and unprotected pigeon species to prevent any mishap later. Plus, you cannot shoot pigeons near residential areas or religious places. It is also illegal on Sundays. Following the laws will keep you out of problems.

Does Clay Pigeon Shooting Hurt?

Clay shooting may or may not hurt. There are several potential risks when clay shooting. The obvious risk is the use of firearms. The safety risk caused by weapons decreases when you are a pro or have years of practice. But this can still be a potential risk for minors. So, follow the standard shooting range. Also, do not underestimate the protection from the proper attire for pigeon shooting. You will need more layering to protect yourself, especially beginners.

How Much Does Clay Pigeon Shooting Cost?

Clay shooting can cost you from $15 to $100. It depends on the shooting field and targets. These charges do not include the firearm and license costs. When you are shooting clay pigeons in the woods or at home, you obviously don’t have to pay any rentals. Other equipment you might need includes a hat, safety glasses, earplugs, and earmuffs.

How Long Does Clay Pigeon Shooting Take?

The duration for clay shooting depends on the shooter’s practice. People with a few months of experience can take a few minutes. But a beginner can take up to an hour. After shooting clay targets for a few days in different positions, you can learn to take down the target within seconds. 

Summing Up

Shooting is the easiest and legal way to eliminate annoying pigeons invading your property. The rules might differ according to every state. Shooting and hunting laws depend on the pigeon population and species in the state. But, as per the Migratory bird treaty act, one cannot take down migratory pigeons without state authorities’ permission.

Pigeons and doves are the same scientifically. So you must know their features as some pigeons or doves are protected. An essential requirement for pigeon shooting and hunting is a license. Some states allow farmers and agricultural landowners to take down nuisance pigeons without a hunting license.